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Safety fears for innocent blasphemy-accused in Pakistan

Christian man and his family remain in hiding fearing mob attacks despite police dismissing charge
Christians protest in Karachi, in Pakistan on Aug. 19, 2023 three days after churches were attacked and vandalized by a Muslim mob in Jaranwala, in Punjab province.

Christians protest in Karachi, in Pakistan on Aug. 19, 2023 three days after churches were attacked and vandalized by a Muslim mob in Jaranwala, in Punjab province. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images) 

Published: February 20, 2024 08:54 AM GMT
Updated: February 20, 2024 09:36 AM GMT

A Pakistani human rights group has expressed concerns over the safety of a Christian man falsely accused of committing blasphemy and remains in hiding with his family fearing mob attacks.

Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) issued a statement on Feb. 20 demanding protection and justice for Younas Masih and his family.

Masih, 68, was accused of blasphemy after allegedly defiling a Quran in the Khurrianwala area of Faisalabad in Punjab province on Feb. 10, it said.

Based on its own investigation, the HRFP said it found the accusation against Masih by his Muslim neighbors — Fatima Bibi and her husband Liaqat Ali — was fake.

The allegation stemmed from a personal grudge and dispute between the two families, it said.

After a case was filed under Section 295B of Pakistan Penal Code that punishes defamation of the Quran, police arrested Masih.

Police then reportedly stopped a mob from attacking Masih and his family, but the mob followed him to the police station and demonstrated outside, HRFP said.

However, he was released on Feb. 13 following investigations that also found the charges to be baseless as the complainant failed to provide any evidence.

Police then detained and charged the couple with making false allegations against Masih.

HRFP said the couple converted to Islam from Christianity one and half years ago.

The husband reportedly escaped from police custody but was rearrested in another city and sent to jail. His wife remains in custody in a district jail in Faisalabad.

The quick police inquiry, declaring Younas Masih innocent, and proving Fatima and Amanat guilty within three days was an exemplary case, said HRFP president Naveed Walter.

He said police should use this as a litmus test for other cases to reform society where baseless blasphemy allegations are rampant.

Due to the sensitivity of the case, Masih and his family will need to be “in hiding for longer time,” Walter said.

“Even though the charges have been dropped by police,  as the case against the couple goes through court, Masih could be called throughout, and the threats from religious fundamentalists remain,” he added.

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